San Diego Trail Tramps

 Blair Valley/Marshal South Cabin/Morteros Wash/Pictograph Trail



View, from Marshal South's "Yaquitepec" adobe cabin, of the Anza Borrego Desert and the Laguna Mountains to the west.

3-Day President's Day Weekend Sunday Hike: February 14, 2016 8:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Blair Valley Campout on Friday, Feb 12, thru Monday, Feb 15


Location: Anza Borrego Desert State Park and Wilderness

Directions: Driving time from Hillcrest/San Diego out to the Blair Valley area is about 1 hr. 45 min. We'll meet at 8 am in Hillcrest at our usual location for carpooling. Refer to maps posted on our website for details on the area. For those driving in from other areas, we'll rendezvous out there around 9:45-10:00 am at the Blair Valley Campground.

Using Google Maps directions from Hillcrest to Blair Valley Campground will take you east on I-8, north from Descanso thru Cuyamaca State Park on 79 to Julian, then down the Banner Grade on 78 to the Anza Borrego Desert. Turn right at the "Sissor's Crossing" area onto S-2 south, go 5.9 miles south, then exit left at mile 22.9 and go .8 miles to the Blalir Valley Campground on the left. A number of us will be camping there for the weekend, so stop by for a quick cup of java, then join us as we carpool about 4 miles further down the dirt road to the Marshall South Cabin trailhead to begin the hike around 10:30 am.

NOTE: If you need to go to the bathroom, there's a vault toilet near the highway exit, shortly after you turn off the highway onto the dirt road.




Blair Valley turnoff at mile 22.9 on Highway S2

Hike Description: Marshal South Cabin - Pictograph Trail - Mortero Wash Hikes

Today we'll do three hikes (2 short and one medium length): the 1st hike will be to Marshal South Cabin (Schad's book: Chapter 33, Trip 5, p. 377), the 2nd hike will be to the Morteros Wash, between Pictograph Trail and Marshal South Cabin, and the 3rd hike is Pictograph Trail (Chapter 33, Trip 6, p.378).

1. Marshal South Cabin is about a 2 mile roundtrip hike, with a 400' elevation gain/loss. Roundtrip hike time is about 2 - 2 1/2 hrs., including a lunch break. Audacious Marshal South and his poetess wife, Tanya, lived atop the dry, remote mountaintop from Ferbuary 1932 to the mid-'40s, raising 3 home-schooled children in a hand built adobe cabin called "Yaquitepec", much like the prehistoric Indians of that region. The ruins of Yaquitepec on Ghost Mountain are one of Anza-Borrego's noted attractions today. From the road-end parking area, a trail climbs in switchbacks up the rocky slope, and turns east along the ridge to the Yaquitepec site. Little remains of the dwelling except some of the walls and the water cistern, but the views from the site are awesome and this is a great place to have lunch.



The ruins of Yaquitepec in 2010


View of Blair Valley to the north from Ghost Mountain

2. Mortero Wash is in between Marshal South Cabin and Pictograph Trail. It suffered fire damage in the late 1990's and is still recovering, but it is worth the hike. It is where the Indians actually lived. There is a large rock and stone seat where they did their puberty/rights-of-passage rituals. The place is full of morteros (the holes created in the granite from grinding corn and acorn nuts) and half caves and over-cropped rocks that were used for shelter. The hike starts out easy, and then gets a little difficult, requiring some boulder hopping.



Morteros: grinding bowls carved into large boulders along the trail for
grinding local seeds and nuts into meal. Some are over 2,000 yrs. old


Possible smoke cave. Historians believe that Native
Americans used these caves for smoking meat.

3. Pictograph Trail is the most heavily used trail in Blair Valley, because it is the easiest to get to. There is a really neat smoke cave at the trail head that the Indians used. Unlike Marshal South cabin (a steep climb that ends in an incredible view), Pictograph Trail will barely get you out of breath and only takes about 20-25 minutes up and 15 minutes back. The pictographs are on one huge rock, about the size of a one story house. The area has a unique mixture of high and low desert plants. You'll see ocotillos, beaver tail cacti, barrel cacti along with juniper, pinion pine, and agave.



Pictographs, some depicting fertility rites, from thousands of years ago.


End of the Pictograph trail, near the top of a dry waterfall, overlooking Smugglers Cyn.

Two old photos from the early 1940's of Marshal South's children at Yaquitepec:


To get an idea of what these fun hikes look like, check out more amazing photos and descriptions of our hike there in 2000:



We're planning a campout under the stars at the primitive campground in Blair Valley. There are 2 vault toilet restrooms near the highway turnoff and that's it. You bring everything else you need for eating and sleeping arrangements. There are some spots for RV's. Everyone else usually sets up tents. Don't forget to bring binoculars for star gazing! Campfires are allowed, but must be contained in a metal bowl that you bring. Extra firewood is always welcome and appreciated!

Some of us will arrive Friday afternoon, others on Saturday, to have a potluck supper and campout on Sat. night, and possibly on Sunday night for those who don't have to work on Monday's President's Day holiday. For those interested in joining the campout, please email ASAP to SanDiegoTrailTramps @ gmail dot com. Thanks!